Monday, March 30, 2009

Excommunication? of Fr. Feeney & Protocol 122/49-- complicated happenings

Here is a short explanation of the problematic points of Protocol 122/49

This statement, Suprema Haec Sacra or Protocol 122/49, was:
1. a letter written from one Bishop to another
2. it was not published in the Acts of the Apostolic See (Acta Apostolicae Sedis), and so was not an official act of the Holy See.
3. Subsequently not being an act of the Holy See it was never signed by Pius XII either.


On August 8, 1949 — almost four months after the silencing of Father Feeney — the Holy Office issued a document, a letter addressed to the Archbishop of Boston and signed by Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani, known as Protocol No. 122/49.*

On September 3, 1949, this Protocol was published in part in The Pilot, the official news organ of the Archdiocese of Boston. Three years later, on September 4, 1952, it was published in full in The Pilot under cover of an explanatory memorandum from Archbishop Cushing.

On September 24, 1952, three weeks after its publication in full, the Center addressed a letter to Pope Pius XII in which it protested: "This Protocol is substantially defective in that it contains heresy insofar as it states that one can be saved under certain conditions outside the Roman Catholic Church and without personal submission to the Roman Pontiff. It is formally defective in that it was never published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis and consequently is without any binding effect as an act of the Holy See."**
* According to the Catholic Dictionary, a Protocol is a "preliminary memorandum in negotiations, serving as a basis for final agreement."

** The Acta Apostolicae Sedis is a monthly publication established as the official journal of the Holy See. Decrees and decisions published therein are thereby officially promulgated and made effective.
Public reaction to the initial publication of parts of the Protocol letter in The Pilot of September 3, 1949, was predictable. The Worcester Telegram, MA, for instance, ran a typical headline:

"Vatican Rules Against Hub Dissidents
Holds No Salvation Outside Church Doctrine To Be False"

Similar headlines and follow-up stories in papers throughout the country produced not one protesting "peep" from the chanceries of the United States. This was 1949; the Pope was Pius XII, yet not one bishop spoke out in defense of a solemnly defined dogma of the Catholic Church! What a scandal to Catholics and non-Catholics alike! And what proof that this severe weakness in doctrinal teaching existed in the seminaries of America since at least the later decades of the nineteenth century!

As usual, the long, detailed letter of appeal to the Holy Father dated September 24, 1952, went unanswered. But one month later, in a letter from Cardinal Pizzardo of the Holy Office dated October 25, 1952, Father Feeney was summoned to Rome:

"The . . . Holy Office has been obliged repeatedly to make your teaching and conduct in the Church the object of its special care and attention, and recently, after having again carefully examined and calmly weighed all the evidence collected in your cause, it has found it necessary to bring this question to a conclusion.

However, His Holiness . . . has decreed that, before any other measure be carried into effect, you be summoned to Rome for a hearing. Therefore, . . . you are hereby ordered to proceed to Rome forthwith and there to appear before the Authorities . . . of the Holy Office as soon as possible."

On October 30, 1952, Father sent a respectful reply to the Cardinal requesting a statement of the charges being made against him — as required by Canon Law. On November 22, 1952, Cardinal Pizzardo sent a terse reply:

"Your letter of 30th October clearly shows that you are evading the issue . . . You are to come to Rome immediately where you will be informed of the charges lodged against you. . . . If you do not present yourself . . . before the 31st December this act of disobedience will be made public together with the canonical penalties.

N.B. . . . The Apostolic Delegate has been authorized to provide for the expenses of your journey."

On December 2, 1952, Father responded, repeating his request for a statement of charges and quoting Canon Law to prove that he had a right to receive such a statement:

"Your Eminence seems to have misconstrued my motives in replying to your letter of October 25, l952. I had presumed that your first letter was to serve as a canonical citation to appear before your Sacred Tribunal. As a citation, however, it is fatally defective under the norms of Canon l715 especially in that it did not inform me of the charges against me. This canon requires that the citation contain at least a general statement of the charges. Under the norms of Canon 1723 any proceedings based on a citation so substantially defective are subject to a complaint of nullity."

On January 9, 1953, came another terse reply from the Cardinal:

"In reply to your letter of the 2nd Dec. 1952 asking for further explanations, . . . the Holy Office communicates to you herewith the orders received from His Holiness, that you are to present yourself to this Congregation before the 31st January 1953, under pain of excommunication incurred automatically (ipso facto) in case of failure to present yourself on the date indicated. This decision of His Holiness has been made after the arrival of the latest documents from St. Benedict Center."

This letter from the Holy Office deserves special comment. Cardinal Pizzardo here exhibits an odd eagerness to condemn Father Feeney. He threatens Father with excommunication if he does not present himself by January 31st. This he has the authority to do. However, he has no authority to threaten anyone with an ipso facto excommunication unless it be for an obstinate disregard of Divine or ecclesiastical law.

There is no ecclesiastical law the compliance or non-compliance with which would make it possible for an order to be given requiring that a priest must come to Rome by such and such a date — or else! Therefore, by not presenting himself to the Holy Office by January 31st, Father Feeney committed no crime meriting an ipso facto excommunication. What he did do — that is, in the external forum of the Church — was provide a reason for an unjust (as later events proved)
tribunal to excommunicate him juridically.

No tribunal is necessary for an ipso facto excommunication. The deed of the culprit, in itself (eo ipso), places him outside the Church, not only in foro externo (if the act is publically known), but in foro interno (his very conscience accusing).

But the offense alleged against Father Feeney — not obeying a summons — provided matter for a court, or a judge, to weigh. The matter was judged and, prescinding from any extenuating circumstances or prior canonically-valid protestations by the accused, found to be a serious infraction. Then, the judge — according to the only verifying witness, the Notary Marius Crovini — passed sentence and excommunicated Father Feeney.

According to the Church’s own canons distinguishing two types of excommunication, Father Feeney could not be excommunicated ipso facto (latae sententiae, i.e., the sentence having been carried out) because his action did not fall under the category of crimes meriting such an automatic expulsion. However, Father could be excommunicated ab homine (by a judge), and that public form of excommunication is called ferendae sententiae (of the sentence that must be carried out). Under the former type of sentence there is always intrinsic guilt, for the sin is intrinsic in the very nature of the act. However, in the latter type of sentence, for legal validity, there must be some questionable matter of doctrine or discipline against which the accused has been inculpated. Even then the external judgment of guilt passed by the tribunal remains a human judgment, and binds only the Church militant, not the court of heaven. And even this imposition on the Church militant can be prudently and respectfully disregarded if the excommunicant is innocent and the salvation of souls warrants certain readjustments along the normal path of hierarchical obediences.

In other words, just as in the sacrament of Confession, the power of the keys is not arbitrary. It is a prescribed power, which can only have efficacy if certain conditions are met. And those conditions depend on the sincerity of the recipient. God will not forgive the impenitent, even if such a one confesses his sins truthfully. And God will not withdraw His grace from one who is unjustly, though — in foro externo — validly, excommunicated. And, finally, God is not bound by any other word than His own Word.

On January 13, 1953, Father Feeney sent a long and strong letter to the Cardinal protesting the following with following main points:

a) Violation of the "secrecy of the Holy Office" in leaking their correspondence to the public press.

b) The Cardinal’s repeated threats of imposing penalties without either accusations or proceedings, as required by the Sacred Canons and the common law of the Church.

c) The dissemination of Protocol 122/49 as a doctrinal pronouncement of the Holy See, knowing it was never published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Father ended this last communication to Cardinal Pizzardo with a statement of righteous indignation:

"I very seriously question both the good faith and the validity of any attempt to excommunicate me because I dared to call the substance of this decree to your attention, and because I dared to insist on my rights under it in both my letters of October 30 and December 2, 1952."

On February 13, 1953, the Holy Office issued a decree declaring Father Feeney "excommunicated." It read as follows:

"Since the priest Leonard Feeney, a resident of Boston (Saint Benedict Center), who for a long time has been suspended from his priestly duties on account of grave disobedience of Church Authority, being unmoved by repeated warnings and threats of incurring excommunication ipso facto [sic], has not submitted, the Most Eminent and Reverend Fathers, charged with safeguarding matters of faith and morals, in a Plenary Session held on Wednesday, 4 February 1953, declared him excommunicated with all the effects of the law.

On Thursday, 12 February 1953, Our Most Holy Lord Pius XII, by Divine Providence Pope, approved and confirmed the decree of the Most Eminent Fathers, and ordered that it be made a matter of public law.

Given at Rome, at the Headquarters of the Holy Office, 13 February 1953.

Marius Crovini, Notary

AAS (February 16, 1953) Vol. XXXXV, Page 100"

The Appeal to Pope Pius XII

Father Leonard Feeney never doubted for one moment that he was doing God’s will in all the actions he took in defense of the salvation dogma. Let the hierarchy do what they will, this priest of Our Lady was ready and willing to follow her Son to his own crucifixion outside the walls of the city. Like Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Father knew that he too could be cast out of the synagogue. An excommunication, even one passed by a pope, is not protected by the charism of infallibility. It is a disciplinary power that can be, and at times has been, abused.

In foro interno, Father’s conscience was never disturbed. However, in foro externo, he felt obliged to issue a public protest against the unjustness of the excommunication, and — perhaps in an effort to upset the complacency of the perpetrators — he also called attention to the many glaring canonical defects that were recurrent throughout his entire ordeal, leading up to and including the decree of excommunication itself. On July 16, 1953, Saint Benedict Center, writing in Father’s name, sent a letter of appeal to the Pope in which these defects were pointed out. It was sent to the Holy Father through the then Pro-Secretary of State for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini (later Pope Paul VI). It read, in part, as follows:

"2. Because the first interest of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the preservation of the Faith, we have been reluctant to make any formal representations to the Holy See concerning any secondary matters relating to our activities. Your Excellency is well aware that the first obligation of every Catholic is to defend with his lifeblood every doctrine of his Holy Faith. In doing this, he has the assurance both of his own salvation, and even if persecuted by fellow Catholics, of his ultimate vindication by the Church. The lives of the saints amply demonstrate this. Many of the saints were vilified, interdicted, excommunicated, and even martyred by those of their own Faith. We refer specifically to Saints Athanasius, Ignatius of Constantinople, Alphonsus Ligouri, John the Baptist de la Salle, Thomas of Hereford, Thomas a’Becket, Joan of Arc, John Fisher and Thomas More.

While our duty is clear, and we are encouraged in its performance by the example of these great saints, and also while we have the unfailing consolation of knowing that we will never be abandoned by our Holy Mother the Church, it is necessary in the interest of justice and for the avoidance of grave scandal to communicate with the Holy See formally and directly concerning many matters which concern us.

3. Foremost, therefore, in our minds, is the matter of the purported decree of excommunication of Father Leonard Feeney. We hereby enter a Complaint of Nullity against this purported decree of excommunication, which was dated February 13, 1953. . ."

The appeal then went on to cite the breaches of the legal procedure which the Church’s own laws require her prelates to follow in the promulgation of an excommunication ferendae sententiae.

No answer was ever received to this Complaint of Nullity. But all the charges made in the letter were amply verified by the use made of the "excommunication" in the press. To give one example, a widely circulated dispatch dated March 1, 1953, originating with the National Catholic Welfare Conference, had this to say:

"The excommunication decree was issued February 13, and officially published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis on February 16, which gives a full review of the former Jesuit’s case and of his recalcitrance in refusing to accept the warnings of the Holy See. . ."

The fact is that neither the decree of February 13, nor the Acta of February 16, contains the slightest hint of a "review of the former Jesuit’s case." But the press had transmitted to the world the very message which the modernists wanted transmitted: It is unwise to profess the doctrine "Outside the Church there is no salvation." And the press also unanimously agreed that Rome had spoken and that the case had been disposed of.

Thus, the forces of Anti-Christ proved their ascendancy in the world of today by placing the most important dogma of the Church under a cloud, using for this purpose the very machinery of Holy Church herself.

After the vilification and the "excommunication" of Father Feeney, he and his followers were forced into some twenty years of "exile." In 1958 they moved to Still River, Massachusetts, in the Diocese of Worcester. It was now 1972. During those years the forces of liberalism had made enormous headway inside the Church.

On August 23, 1972, the day on which Auxiliary Bishop Lawrence Riley of Boston, accompanied by Father Richard J. Shmaruk, quietly arrived at Saint Thérèse House in Still River. Father did not know the purpose of their visit, and no members of the other houses at the Center were aware that it was taking place. Father Feeney was requested to make a profession of faith. Which profession was his choice he chose the Athanasian Creed. Father enthusiastically agreed. And presto! The unsuspecting Father Feeney was "back in the Church!"

Now, the Athanasian Creed begins with these words:

Whosoever wishes to be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly . . .

So, Father was "back in the Church" by professing the very doctrine which many said had "put out!"

****Father Feeney answered with 1917 canon law:
#1715 - requires a formal statement of charges against a defendant.
#1723 - states that a non-canonical summons is void.
#1959 - forbids penalties without a trial.
#1842/1843 - require the defendant be informed both of the charges against him and the nature of the proceedings…